As the Grizzlies finish off their longest homestand of the year, the team is playing much better baseball than its last place 49-61 record would indicate. The team (through Monday) is riding a four-game winning streak, one shy of the longest streak all year.
New lead off man Justin Christian is providing the spark, with his speed and defense. The one-time Yankee prospect (he played 24 games for New York in 2008) is the spark on top of the line up, batting .345 with a .441 OBP. He has slugged three lead off homers, and swiped 18 bases in just 30 games since his promotion from Double-A Richmond.
Emmanuel Burriss is back from his recent stint with the Giants, and in two games back already homered and scored three runs. His defense is spectacular as well. He will be joined soon by another Giants demotion, SS Brandon Crawford. For Crawford, he will appear for the first time on the Fresno roster. His earlier jump to the big club came directly from San Jose (A).
First baseman Brett Pill continues to have a sensational year. He leads the Pacific Coast League now with 92 RBI. He has already set professional personal highs for homers (22) and is on pace to establish a personal best in batting average, currently at .322. It is ironic since Pill was removed from the Giants 40-man roster in the off season. If he keeps it up, he may find himself not only on the 40-man, but a spot in San Francisco in September.
Although their record does not indicate it, with players like Christian, Burriss and CF Tyler Graham, the offense generates excitement. All three players turn walks into triples. With every swipe, Graham tacks on to his single-season franchise best of 51 steals. As a team, the Grizzlies easily are the best in the PCL, with 160 thefts. The closest team, Oklahoma City, is at 119.
The problem with Fresno this year is the overall offense (.277 BA/ .777 OPS, which rank towards the bottom of the 16-team league). The pitching has been rough all year long as well, with a 5.22 ERA and 1.57 WHIP (both middle of the pack for the PCL).
After Tuesday’s homestand finale against Reno, the team embarks on a two-city trip at Iowa and Omaha. The team returns August12.
NOTE: after the Giants officially announced the trade of Thomas Neal (Grizzlies OF) on Saturday, the soon-to-be departed prospect received a round of applause from the crowd, as he stood from the dugout to acknowledge the appreciation. He doffed his cap and then went back to the locker room, no doubt headed to the Cleveland organization (where he was traded for SS Orlando Cabrera).